Fe­male ath­lete dreams of mak­ing NFL in Toy­ota ad

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS | NFL - Erik Brady

An­toinette “Toni” Har­ris of­ten tells peo­ple she’s go­ing to be in the Su­per Bowl some­day. Well, this year she’s go­ing to be on it.

The sopho­more foot­ball player at a Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­nity col­lege will star in Toy­ota’s ad for its 2019 RAV4 hy­brid. The con­ceit is that the au­to­mo­bile and the free safety both defy ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I plan to be the first fe­male NFL player,” she tells USA TO­DAY. “Drafted or un­drafted, as long as I get there, with God’s will.”

She’s al­ready bro­ken bar­ri­ers as a po­si­tion player at East Los An­ge­les Col­lege. That’s a real rar­ity, as women play­ing col­lege foot­ball have typ­i­cally been kick­ers.

Har­ris, 22, is con­sid­er­ing four schol­ar­ship of­fers to con­tinue her aca­demic and foot­ball ca­reers: Bethany Col­lege, Adams State Univer­sity, Grace­land Univer­sity and Ken­tucky Chris­tian Univer­sity. She says she’s not lean­ing to­ward one yet as she has un­til July to sign a na­tional let­ter of in­tent and she wants to dis­cover which one of­fers the best blend of aca­demics and play­ing time.

The Detroit na­tive was get­ting ready for a game last fall when an email ar­rived with an of­fer to star in Toy­ota’s Su­per Bowl ad. She’s had to keep it a se­cret since, ex­cept for close fam­ily mem­bers and a few oth­ers. Sun­day she’ll watch the game with her fam­ily as cam­eras cap­ture her watch­ing her­self.

“They’ve said a lot of things about Toni Har­ris,” Jim Nantz says in the com­mer­cial’s voiceover. “They said she was too small. They said she was too slow, too weak.”

All the while, the video shows her as fast and strong.

“Yeah, peo­ple have made a lot of as­sump­tions about Toni,” Nantz’s voiceover says.

Then Har­ris turns to the cam­era and says with a smile: “But I’ve never been a big fan of as­sump­tions.”

The ad is sched­uled to run in the first ad break of the sec­ond quar­ter.

“The 2019 RAV4 HV is the ve­hi­cle that will shat­ter the per­cep­tions of hy­brids, much like how Toni is shat­ter­ing per­cep­tions of a foot­ball player,” Ed Lauckes said in a state­ment. He is group vice pres­i­dent, Toy­ota mar­ket­ing, Toy­ota Mo­tor North Amer­ica.

Har­ris has her as­so­ciate de­gree in so­cial science and be­hav­ioral devel­op­ment with an em­pha­sis in crim­i­nal jus­tice. “I want to be a homi­cide de­tec­tive with a back­ground in foren­sics,” she says. That, of course, would come af­ter her NFL ca­reer.

TOY­OTA

An­toinette “Toni” Har­ris, a foot­ball player at a Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­nity col­lege, stars in a Toy­ota ad that will air dur­ing the Su­per Bowl.

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